Action 6 – Investingating Food, Culture and Entrepreneurship

A morning trip to the market.

Woke up at the crack of dawn (required A LOT OF motivation because I am definitely not a morning person) to go to the fruit and vegetable market with my father. It was something I did a lot as a kid but hadn’t since I had started living by myself. 7 years later, moved back with my folks, admist a pandemic and rediscovered why and how my dad still prefers to buy his produce from local vendors rather than the mutistoried and imported grocery stores.

In India, as opposed to Western cultures, we have the concept of a farmers market literally on the streets and makeshift carts and a very transient physical space. We have a decade old signature bag that is still going strong for bringing the buys of the day home and I am literally jumping with excitement as it is my first trip outside of home in weeks.

Here is a glimpse of the market in action.

Amidst all the action from the traffic, one can clearly hear the loud and enthusiastic voices of the sellers calling out to prospective buyers to check out their produce which is stacked in beautiful baskets and almost sculptural pieces. The vendors focus a lot on making the produce look rich by placing bright colours at the forefront and constantly sprinkle water to keep the fresh look alive. Check out a few of those carts that caught my attention below.

Taking to these vendors and observing how they went about ‘strategising’ their sales made me compare and contrast my experience of shopping for these things online or in a fancy supermarket. This biggest difference – The absence of a personal touch by the seller and the ability to touch, feel, smell and even taste the produce we are out to consume.

It was a truly multisensorial experience. Much different from the indifferent way of shopping online or from stores manned by the corporate hires. The stories of how to pick a certain vegetable, what to look for, how much to buy and especially where the produce came from, often gets lost in the monotonous and straight ailes of the supermarket. While this street market laid it all bare and that too for a subsidized cost!

Watching my Dad engage with the shopkeepers, sometimes forgetting all the pandemic protocols, made me wonder about what about the experience was so attractive or useful that people weren’t even afraid of catching the virus. What pushed this need to be physically present and how might one design this practice in an alternate way to make sure the rules of pandemic ridden world are respected?

In the pictures below you will find buyers engaging with the produce with bare hands, using cash notes as exchange and a lot of plastic packaging. A very problematic scenario, but still a habit that even a worldwide calamity couldn’t change. How do you address this change of habit without disturbing the intrinsic habit/need of the users?

While all these thoughts rallied around in my brain, I saw another inspiring sight. The frugal and ancestral approach to the tools used by the vendors in the era of extreme industrialisation and Eurocentrism. From using basic weights and common kinves, stools and old school mechanical machines to weigh, peel and cut these guys were extremely fast and skilled with their methods. I documented a few of those methods where vendors were innovative enough to use common garage tools to execute their chores effiecitenyly and at minimal cost. I n this day and age of fancy cutting knives, digital wieghts and whirring machines with a huge carbon footprint this seemed to a be a pretty sustainable ecosystem of tools and technology. Do watch the video below if you are reading this!

After internalising all of this content that my morning trip generated I spoke about my ideas to Zach and a few my classmates. There is a rich availability of ‘thought threads’ in these pictures about studying where our food comes from, the daily habits of people who buy, the economic, social and political environment of the functioning of these markets.
So I using the aspects of storyboarding that Zach shared with me I drew out a mind map of the different areas of consideration of this action. I outlined the aspects of time, scenarios, and context of this action. I also jotted down reflective thoughts during the process to find threads to pursue for further investigations.

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